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We’ve all seen them, heard the stories, and been bombarded with information on how QR Codes will be the preferred method of communication with customers. For certain groups of individuals, that may still be true, but for the large percentage of consumers, QR Codes are simply white noise being created by marketing professionals. At the heart of the issue is how marketers are using QR codes effectively and what they are providing to the user in terms of information and value.

When done correctly, a QR Code will provide valuable information and content specifically designed for mobile devices. Using QR codes effectively requires using the QR code in a place that is ideally suited for use with a mobile device. A great example would be on a box of cereal that sends the user to a video, interactive game, coupon or recipe for that product. The user could then either view the video or game while eating their breakfast or scan it in the store to entice them to make a purchase of that product.

Unfortunately, QR Code use is seldom that well thought out. Most of the time they are located in places that do not require the use of a phone or QR reader, and worse yet, they send people to content poorly designed for the medium. A great example of this are QR Codes within email signatures. Putting a QR Code within your email doesn’t make sense. Because you already know the person and are viewing the content digitally, a normal link would be much more practical. Even worse, in many cases this QR Code links back to a web page that simply provides the contact information of the person who sent the email, duplicating  information already in the email signature.

With that said, rest assured, QR Codes are not going away, but it is up to marketing professionals to understand and learn the practical uses of them. This starts by turning the tables and providing QR Codes to customers and taking on the responsibility of translating that information. The best example of this that I’ve seen to date are airline boarding passes. On my last trip, I presented the QR Code given to me by the airline to the gate agent directly on my phone instead of printing a ticket. I had no idea how to interpret that little square of information, and I didn’t care. I only knew that it would tell the woman at the counter what she needed to know and allow me to board on-time without digging through my bag to find a boarding pass.